SPCA’s vision is to provide engaging NZ Curriculum aligned resources for schools. These are designed to encourage exploration and development of knowledge, skills, and understandings needed to create feelings of empathy, compassion, respect and justice for the lives of all living things.
SPCA’s education programme is designed to help teachers integrate Animal Welfare Education into their classroom programme, whilst offering tools and strategies to enhance existing classroom teaching and learning, and fulfil New Zealand Curriculum achievement objectives in all learning areas. This approach is consistent with the New Zealand Curriculum vision of young people as creative, energetic, enterprising young people who actively participate in and contribute to the future well-being of New Zealand (not passive recipients of knowledge).
Animal welfare education is about the fostering of respect, understanding, compassion and responsibility towards animals. It is an exploration of how we share the world with other living beings and the responsibilities we have in ensuring their well being.
Given the prevalence of violence in society today, it is more crucial than ever to instil compassion, empathy and tolerance in young people. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between violent acts towards animals and people. Additional, research in animal welfare education suggests that children’s compassion toward animals is related to their empathy toward humans.
SPCA’s education programme promotes essential character-building qualities such as empathy, kindness, respect for others and personal responsibility as well as engaging students’ in core curriculum subject learning through real-life meaningful contexts. As children develop empathy (the ability to assume the feelings and perspective of other humans and animals), they begin to understand concepts such as respect, cooperation, sharing, fairness, kindness and compassion.
SPCA’s education resources were designed to integrate into the New Zealand Curriculum by experienced, New Zealand trained teachers. SPCA’s education resources focus on a variety of animal welfare concepts and provide teachers with the tools to incorporate these topics into their daily teaching and learning programmes. The learning experiences allow students to gain knowledge and understanding of animals through interactive, project based learning experiences.
Great importance is placed on the inquiry process and critical thinking as well as developing leadership skills to put compassion into action. Before their launch, SPCA’s education materials were piloted over 18 months by 22 primary schools and evaluated by New Zealand Council for Educational Research. This approach has enabled SPCA to make informed, evidence based decisions throughout the programme’s development.
The ultimate learning experience occurs when home and school work in partnership - when teaching and learning is supported, reinforced and encouraged at home, connections are more easily made and positive changes can occur.
There is a lot of advice and research out there that suggest family pets are a great way to teach children compassion and responsibility. However, the presence of animals in a home alone does not automatically make children more empathetic. Click on the content below to learn more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant children in Aotearoa New Zealand have spent extended periods of time at home, unable to attend their early learning setting or school. Parents, whānau and caregivers are having to juggle their own work commitments, household tasks, whilst also trying to meet the care and learning needs of their children.
The SPCA Kids’ Portal is a free online platform with a wide array of fun and engaging learning experiences about animals and animal welfare, for children of all ages. Children will learn about companion animals (pets), farmed animals and wildlife through fun learning experiences and activities, that will keep them engaged for hours.
Click on the image below to have a look at what the SPCA Kids’ Portal has to offer and what your child will be learning. If you have an animal/s in your home, now might be the perfect time to support your child in learning how they can help to take care them*. Your child could start by watching the relevant animal care videos on the SPCA Kids’ Portal.
*Note: An adult must always be present when a child is interacting with an animal to ensure the child’s and the animal’s safety. A child cannot take sole responsibility of an animal; an adult must ensure the animal’s needs are being met.
In addition to animal welfare and social emotional learning, the SPCA Kids’ Portal supports learning in all areas. Puzzles, origami, colouring in and drawing encourages fine motor skills, core development, perseverance, problem solving skills, maths concepts, spatial awareness and the ability to follow instruction. The suggested animal welfare storybooks, fun facts, quizzes, ask an expert, word searches and crosswords encourage literacy based learning, whilst gaining knowledge about animals. Animal welfare storybooks and the many videos about SPCA staff, animals and facilities will help in fostering a sense of connection, responsibility and genuine interest and manaaki for others, both human and non-human animals.
We hope you and your child enjoy exploring and interacting with the SPCA Kids’ Portal. Remember your child can enter into the Kind Matters competition and send us through their animal photography, artwork and written pieces, we would love to see it and share it on the portal!*
*By sending through photos, artwork or written work, you are consenting for SPCA New Zealand to share it on the SPCA Kids’ Portal, SPCA Teachers’ Portal, in the SPCA Teacher or Kids’ Newsletter and within SPCA social media postings.
Children will learn a lot through watching, listening, thinking and copying what their parents and caregivers do. So naturally, if a child is consistently exposed to responsible pet ownership practice and empathetic treatment of living things, it is highly likely that child will begin to practice those same behaviours. These behaviours are likely to become instinctive and that child’s “norm”. Unfortunately the same can be said when a child is regularly exposed to irresponsible and undesirable animal interactions.
The way that animals are treated by a family will strongly influence whether or not the children within the home learn to treat living beings with dignity and respect. For example, if a family’s dog is left chained in the backyard all day every day with no shelter or exercise, or a rabbit is kept all alone in a small cage in the backyard, a child exposed to this practice will learn to believe that it’s ok to disregard the needs of others rather than have consideration for them.
Tip for Parents/Caregivers
When children see parents making an effort to care for those who cannot care for themselves, they learn that this is the proper way to behave. Model responsible pet ownership for your children so that they will learn that animals are sentient beings with their own wants and needs. Show your children that pets are not toys or objects for them to use and then disregard when the novelty has worn off. Modelling this type of empathy and compassion will give your children the ability to consider the thoughts and feelings of others and act accordingly.
Research studies have shown that a child’s emotional intelligence is a stronger predictor of future social and occupational success than traditional I.Q. scores. As they grow up, children who have learned empathy and compassion are more likely to become trustworthy friends, valued co-workers, and respected members of their community.
Tip for Parents/Caregivers
Paying close attention to how your child interacts with family pets and/or other animals they meet. If you ever see inappropriate or cruel behaviour, instantly and consistently stop this and instead, promote and encourage positive behaviour.
From a very young age, most children are surrounded by animals in some shape or form. Many children have animal themed clothing, bedding, toys and stuffed pretend animals. We often see young children cuddling, naming, talking to, and playing with their animal toys. Walking into most early childhood centres, you will witness children learning their alphabet and practising their counting with animal pictures and library corner shelves filled with animal themed picture books.
Throughout primary and intermediate school, outings with friends, family or class groups will often include visiting animals at the zoo, birds in a park, and fish in an aquarium or fishpond. Children will watch animals on television and starring in block buster movies. It’s therefore not surprising that from an early age, children have a fascination with all kinds of furry friends.
With a fascination of animals, children usually want to interact with them, eager to hug and squeeze them. Though this is a child’s way of expressing affection, unfortunately this kind of attention is often less than empathetic since the needs of the animals are being disregarded. Most pets don’t enjoy being chased, grabbed or pulled by young children who want to cuddle with them. It might seem harmless for small children to poke and prod animals, since they really can’t do them any physical harm, but remember numerous studies have shown that the way people treat animals is closely related to the way they treat people.
Tip for Parents/Caregivers
Discourage your children from chasing, grabbing, pulling or poking animals. A child who holds onto a struggling pet is not learning to consider and respect the needs of other living beings. Instead, encourage pro-social behaviours such as sharing, compromise and cooperation.
When positive, empathetic interactions are encouraged and modelled by adults; children will begin to better understand and identify with the animal’s emotions and learn how to take care and responsibility for the animal. Actively helping in the caring of family pets can help children extend care to other human beings.
Tip for Parents/Caregivers
Redirect young children to more positive behaviour during their first interactions with animals – this plants the seeds of empathy and compassion. Young children can be shown and encouraged to engage the family dog in a mutually enjoyable activity such as fetching a ball, instead of grabbing and climbing on top of him for a “horsey ride”. Rather than chasing the cat and making her run away and hide, children can learn that it’s more fun to sit still and encourage her to come closer by calling her with a treat or toy for her to play with, followed by a gentle pat or rub around the chin.
Positive child-animal relationships can develop empathy, generosity, compassion, helpfulness, care and responsibility. Skills that we believe most parents would want their child to have, and society wishes of all its citizens.